Salad is so gay, a new friend said to eight-year-old Jamie. Jamie went on to explain – in front of a group of 5 boys gathered at our house for the first time – that salad can’t be gay. Neither can rhubarb, fyi. He talked about people being gay and how everyone has feelings and how people can love whoever they want and how words matter.
Jamie was matter-of-fact and his new friends listened, though only a couple of them would come over again. When the boys had gone, Jamie and I sat with his brother Daniel, then 5. “I’m so proud of you,” I told Jamie. “You spoke up when you could have kept quiet. You protected the rights of others. You stood up for what you know is right, and our family values.” Jamie was glad, and Daniel was fascinated, so I tried to make the most of a teachable moment. “Daniel,” I told him, “Whether people are gay or Jewish or anything, we are all humans and deserve to be treated well.” And I went on. Probably for too long.
Because a few days later was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. We had extended family around the table, and before tucking into a meal of honeyed salmon, challah, and apple crumble cake, my husband welcomed everyone to “this important Jewish—” “Um, can I say something?” Daniel asked, actually reverent. Sure we told him. “The thing is,” he said all serious with his hazel eyes and full cheeks, “We’re not Jewish.” He took a breath. “We’re gay.”
“Dad, we’re not Jewish, we’re gay.”
“Oh, um, no, see…”
Daniel perked up. “NO, it’s fine! Really! We’re all gay humans at this table…”
It took some time to unravel the confusion and set the record straight. Or gay.
Happy New Year.*
*for those not Jewish (or gay), happy fall.